Monday, February 27, 2017

"Bringing Back" Virtual People Has Scary Orwellian Implications

Will the Light Stage technology shown here someday be used
to make it look like to the world that somebody who's innocent
is doing something not innocent?
Photo by Al Seib, Los Angeles Times
I was watching "CBS Sunday Morning" and what started out as a quirky fluff piece quickly scared the hell out of me.

The segment began by noting that the recent Star Wars movie "Rogue One" had in its cast the British actor Peter Cushing.  

Cushing died in 1994, so how can he be in a recently released film?

It turned out actor Guy Henry performed the new scenes, and a special effects engineers replaced Henry's face with Cushing's.

Here's where we begin to turn scary, when they introduced a guy named Paul Debevec.

According to CBS, Debevec invented something called the Light Stage. It has more than 10,000 LEDs, inside of which a subject - a person - is photographed with roughly 20 high quality DSLR cameras, which produce a series of high-resolution photos from different angles to reconstruct a 3-D model of the subject's face.

Debevec told CBS: "We'll have the actor make a succession of about 50 different facial expressions. And that produces all of the different motions of their face. But we also can record a facial performance from all these different angles, and then create a digital performance of that character that does exactly what they did in the video."

Adds CBS: "Once an actor has been scanned into Light Stage, engineers can digitally insert him or her into scenes, even if the actor is unavailable, much older or younger or deceased."

That's all fine and dandy if we're talking about the make-believe world of Hollywood. At least 100 famous actors have stood in this Light Stage to be scanned for movies, notes CBS.

The Light Stage was wicked expensive to build, but the price of this type of technology is coming down, and like most technology, will continue to come down fast.

Here's the scariest part, brought up by CBS Sunday Morning: What happens if someone scans a person, even unwittingly, and tries to pass it off as reality?

I'll take it to a ridiculous level. Remember that insane wacko rumor that Hillary Clinton was running a childhood sex ring in the non-existent basement of a Washington DC pizza restaurant?

So imagine scanning all these images of Hillary Clinton and making a film that "proves" she was running the child sex ring.

There are so many gullible people out there. An insane number of people believed the Clinton sex ring story. What if there was a computerized film to "prove" that it was true.

People are also always looking for blackmail opportunities, or to make it look like people did something bad that they didn't do.

Already, people hack into computers, making it look like they were committing crimes. Imagine using this Light Stage technology to produce videos for blackmail or worse that "show" the victim doing something terrible.

The lines between reality and fiction are blurring, be it politicians who do it by repeating false things, or people who use technology to make things up and pass them off as real.

This is another example of this blurring.

What kind of world will we live in when we can't distinguish the difference between what is really going on before our eyes, and what is pure fiction?

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